What got us talking: Umpires are not firing

AFL umpires. You either love them, or you hate them.

When the frees are going in your favour, the umps are like a godsend. But when decisions go against your club, the men (and women) in yellow can be the worst people on earth.

For the most part, the umps do a pretty good job. They adjudicate the game fairly and reasonably. They make the calls that need to be made.

But like players and coaches, sometimes they have an off day.

The Western Bulldogs vs. Adelaide match appeared to be one of those times. The Dogs came away with the win, but the free kick count was the bigger story. The Bulldogs won the count 28-12. At half time, the tally was 14-2.

The calls of one particular umpire only intensified the debate. Troy Pannell, the ump in question, gave away 17 free kicks to the Dogs while only giving one for the entire match to the Crows.

Was it an umpiring anomaly? Or was it pointed bias?

Former umpires boss, Jeff Gieschen, said Pannell wouldn’t have realised how strongly he was favouring one side.

“At the end of the day he would walk away and wouldn’t have a clue how many he paid to the Bulldogs,” Gieschen said. “He’s that focused on getting it right, you just pay what you see.”

Despite the intentions of the umpires, the obvious differential left the Crows calling foul.

“I think it’s fair to say it was pretty frustrating for our fans and our players,” Adelaide coach Don Pyke said. “But we’ll address that with the umpiring department during the week and ask some questions.”

Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge wasn’t afraid to fight back, calling any attack on the umpires “disgusting”.

“Any open message in the public domain and doubt around the integrity of an umpire’s performance for me is disgusting,” Beveridge said. “I’m always concerned about the message it might send to the community.”

Beveridge also took the comments as a slight on his players.

“In a sense it’s disappointing,” Beveridge said. “We train and play a certain way, so it is a little bit disrespectful to our players and how hard they go at the ball.”

The Western Bulldogs are serial free kick winners. As of round seven, the Dogs have received 67 more free kicks than their opposition. Essendon is the next best with +16 frees.

This statistic is also record breaking. Since the start of the AFL in 1990, no club has had a higher free kick differential at this point of the season.

Now there are plenty of reasons why this might be the case. A significantly higher number of disposals show the Dogs are simply getting more of the ball. More disposals often mean more frees.

But even if there are reasons for it, large free kick counts never go down well. It will always look like the umpires are having too much influence on the game, and a high differential will be interpreted as favouritism and unfair.

So after this week of intense scrutiny, there’s a good chance we will see some alterations in umpiring this weekend.

As long as the right decisions are made, and it overall feels ‘fair’, then we’ll cut the umpires some slack.


What we learnt from round 7

– The countdown is on

Kangaroo’s forward Mason Wood divided the footy world this week. With 19 seconds left to go and only a point in front, Wood utilised the new shot clock to eat up the remainder of the match. Some called it smart footy, while others said it went against the spirit of the game. Whichever way you see it; it won the Roos the match, so expect to see similar scenarios in the future.

– Thrashings the order of the weekend

There were few close contests in round six, with large defeats the most common result. Port Adelaide bet Brisbane by 77 points, the Dees defeated the Suns by 73, and the Swans came away winners to the tune of 81 points. Other large wins to Geelong and Hawthorn set the tone for an average round of footy.

– Another dark day for the Pies

The Blues broke a three-year losing streak but the attention diverted straight to Collingwood. The Pies have been the focus point this week, especially when president Eddie McGuire said he was contemplating resigning after the 15-point loss. And the scrutiny won’t go away any time soon if the Pies lose to Brisbane this upcoming round.


What we can expect from round 8

– Patrick’s not welcome here

This week, Dangerfield will make his way back to Adelaide Oval to play his former team. While not his first time back in South Australia (Geelong played Port there in round five), he’ll definitely be expecting a hostile reception from the Crows’ faithful. Expect booing and jeering from the crowd, and an absolute blinder from the Cats’ midfielder.

– Progress report on the expansion clubs

Depleted with injuries, and with captain Gary Ablett’s form and health being questioned, the Suns look like they will struggle against the Giants this week. Add in GWS’ fantastic form, and there’s no doubt the final result will show the Giants are miles in front in the expansion race.

– Bulldogs ‘on the road’

For the first time this year, the Dogs will not play at Etihad Stadium. But the trip isn’t too far: just across the city as the come up against the Demons at the MCG. The Dogs don’t play there often and the Dees are in red hot form, so it could pose as a danger game. But Melbourne aren’t known for their consistency, so the Bulldogs should come away with the win.